Alesund notes

Alesund, Norway is one of the most beautiful small cities in Europe.  The setting is picture-perfect, and much of the architecture was redone in 1904-1905 in Art Nouveau style, due to a fire that burned down the previous wooden structures.  The Art Nouveau murals in the town church deserve to be better known.

Image result for alesund norway

This time around, Norway seems vaguely affordable.  The food is “good enough,” especially if you like cod.  Dark chocolate ice cream is hard to come by.  Driving to the puffins takes 3-4 hours, though they are not always to be seen.


This time around, Norway seems vaguely affordable. The food is “good enough,” especially if you like cod.

You know, I have to say it, but this really doesn't sound like it needs to be read in a Straussian manner.

The food is good enough? Is that something Garrison Keillor would say about lutefisk?

"Dark chocolate ice cream is hard to come by..."
Sounds like a line out of Grand Budapest Hotel.

It gets dark in Chapter 2 when a half-starved Tyler starts eyeballing the puffins menacingly.

The dark part is there aren't any actual puffins.

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It is the opening line of Knausgård's new book. Now he has turned to Scandi Noir. In an isolated Skåne farmhouse, a young police detective has been stabbed by a drunken cod fisherman whose Icelandic wife has just left him. Rookie policewoman Marie Gråbøl has to solve the crime and prove it was an international ring of Neo-Nazi industrialists before everyone blames Somali immigrants or she kills herself in despair over her unemployed poet boyfriend's drinking.

+1. There goes my sense of hygge.

You could say it's just fermented fish (gravalaks) but, the locals must use other fish than salmon, other herbs......and this is thing is just like charcuterie, you can never have enough.

Dark chocolate has become wildly overrated in some quarters.

Alesund is nice, but if you go to Norway you should visit the area of Lofoten, for instance Henningsvær:


In case anyone is wondering, "should I take the time to paste that link into my browser?", yes you should.


That town is more dedicated to football than your average Texan town, judging by the amount of space allocated to it and the condition of the field.

All true, although I'm guessing that the field looks good because it's artificial turf rather than real grass.

Football or football?

What are the white structures around the field? Looks like framing our some sort.

"Driving to the puffins takes 3-4 hours, though they are not always to be seen."

There must be a Straussian interpretation to this - anyone?

Tyler ate the visible puffins.

I think half of what Tyler says is just trolling to see if anyone will write a comment with the word "Straussian" in it.

He must get ten cents every time someone uses it.

So here's another dime for you, old bean.

Guaranteed puffin sightings between May and August are available much closer to home on Machias Seal Island 12 miles off Cutler, Maine, which hosts a tour boat.

How do they guarantee it? Especially on an island with seals?

Do they - and I am only throwing it out here - kill and stuff a few, and then prop them up on sticks Game of Thrones-style by any chance?

We flew to Alesund a few years ago, rented a car, and drove to the island of Runde where the puffins nest. It takes longer to drive there than you might expect looking at a map. One ferry boat ride, several bridges that have only one lane but two-way traffic (with an interesting way to take turns), and other driving challenges. We stayed in the nature center on Runde for two nights, though most of the visitors came in campers. Only around 80 people live on the island itself.

Once you are as far as a car can go, it's quite a hike up to the puffin nesting area. However, you can also watch them in the sea where they feed from around 9 AM to 9 PM. Around 9 to 11 PM they fly back to their nests which are in holes in the side of a very very steep hill. That's when you can see them clearly and wonderfully. If you don't time it right, you miss them. We were there in June when it's never dark, so the hike up the hill wasn't at night, but the ground was very very wet and the hiking was tricky.

The obvious Straussian reading is that it is better use of your time, although status-lowering and hence best done in secret, to stay at home and watch them with David Attenborough.

But you need to study the really advanced Strauss to get that.

The puffins are here:

But I believe 3-4 hours is a quite leisurely drive. Nothing Straussian.

Various puffin populations are in trouble...



Fnord Prefect.

If you remade Earth Mark II so that Africa had lots of fjords, would it be full of rich Social Democratic welfare states?


Fjords imply glaciation, which means close to poles, which means a cool biome even in an inter-glacial, which means well-built shelters, clothing, shelter and community codes, and low discount rates to survive winter. The natural harbours and long coastline give returns to urbanisation and ease of exit from despotic polities, driving an emergent mercantile culture which high individualism (the land is too rugged for large serf estates, but favours smallholdings). Soon a national civic with high asabiyyah emerges, whilst the exposed mineral resources, manpower scarcity, and abundant hydropower foster early :-)

I don't care if they aren't equatorial enough, they add a nice baroque feel to a continent.

Well done. Physical geography is too often ignored.

I'll never understand the obsession with earth tones that started in the suburban U.S. 25 years ago or so. My guess is builders tricked consumers into accepting a cost-cutting measure as good taste. The bright colors of the houses in Norway make so much more sense in a bleak background.

Iceland is the same, with bright colored houses against a bleak background. In a non-bleak background, i.e., pastoral suburban settings, it would seem appropriate to have earth tones so as to emphasize the natural beauty.


Though I wonder if there is some survival value in pre-modern times from having brightly coloured shelter visible against the landscape?

If you look closely, most of the structures are bright white. The yellow certainly does pop out attractively.

All that water, yet projected sea level rise in Norway is less than half the global mean. I would describe that low (or is it high?) as "good enough". It's not the result of prayer, as Norway is the least religious country in western Europe. Maybe that's because Norway had a state religion until 2012 (Lutheran). Another low in Norway is the income tax rate: at 39%, it's the lowest of the Scandinavian countries. Is that "good enough" for Cowen? My friend resides on one of the Orkney Islands, part of Scotland but more Scandinavian that Scottish. She married a local. He speaks English but I cannot understand a word. Except for wee dram (two words). Like Norway's coast, it's not as cold as one might expect. All that light in summer and dark in winter would have me reaching for a wee dram.

rayward, do you realize that you are starting to ramble and are sounding obsessive. You are starting to read a lot like mulp & prior.

Pretty soon we'll have our banjo quartet.

It is interesting to me how many treasured "traditional" ethnic/national dishes are merely a result of how they could preserve nutrition rich perishable items beck before chilling technology. Think of all the varieties of pickled salted fish.

Every Christmas, people dutifully break out bleak store-bought versions of these dishes and grimace their way through them, pretending to be enjoying their trip back into great-goo-maw's kitchen.

I first became aware of this trying to choke down a dry and puckered Easter salt ham with a friend from Ol' Virginny.

Pretty much. See everything from Pickled herring, Chorizo, Riceballs, Parmesan to Kimchi, I guess.

Though many "traditional" dishes are just "peasant staples for this biome"; appalling cheap carbs or desperately rare sources of protein in a world in which good cuts of meat were rare and expensive. No one would touch them if you had any wealth.

As the world gets wealthier, cuisines converge on western/modern norms. Chinese in 100 years will wonder why anyone in their right mind would touch birds nest soup.

"As the world gets wealthier, cuisines converge on western/modern norms."

Naturally, this raises the chicken/egg question of is there something inherently appealing about the US diet, something powerful about desiring the US diet as a cultural signal of "making it", or something particularly effective about the US food production/promotion system?

Most ethnic treats are either preservative-based (all sausages, lox, etc.) or else hamburger helper (paella, frittata, etc.) designed to stretch meat by mixing it with grains.

The U.S. diet is basically the German diet, with a French influence from early in the last century and adapted to U.S. crop availability.

Don't forget the contribution of the Scots-Irish in the preserved crop beverage category.

Explaining the ubiquity of the US diet - just wealth? The US diet isn't American; merely modern; crammed with the protein and fats that all humans crave. The US simply became rich enough (with the wealth relatively widespread, to generate a national and not a court cuisine) to afford it before most other nations; and enjoyed a fantastic synergy between railroads and the west in the 19th century which opened up cheap meat in particular.

I note that the similarly improving UK diet in the 19th century is also marked by meat consumption such that it becomes a national staple and derogatory term from the French: "Les Rosbifs"

You are mistaken. The Anglo-American diet comes from the middle class nature of British food consistent with early industrialization. In contrast the Chinese diet comes from the mix of food optimized for peasants and food optimized for the court. The latter is why Chinese have many more elaborate and unusual dishes than the American meat and potatoes standards. Judging by the spread of Chinese and Japanese cooking worldwide, I would bet money that as the world gets richer, its food will become more Chinese/Japanese/French/Nouvelle whatever. Already you see that the richer the groups, the more the demands for variety and novelty and complex flavors.


Ah, ok. I was more aiming at the initial move away from low protein to high protein diets with wealth, (from peasant food to "middle class food" with burger and BBQ chicken and what-have-you).

But I wholly accept the point that food will become more "courtly" with further wealth and acquire non-nutrition aspects, as in the Imperial (take your pick) court. We can see this already in the west, where dining has now becoming a strong status activity.

Pointing out the bifurcation of Chinese/French cuisine is also useful!

When bringing smoked salmon from Norway, I could leave it in the fridge, forget about it, and take out some months later when I felt like it. The Costco wild cold smoked salmon gets moldy 2 weeks after vacuum package has been opened:(

"The Costco wild cold smoked salmon gets moldy 2 weeks after vacuum package has been opened"

It's not smoked then. Probably the smoking is a short process merely to add flavoring.

Does Norway feel like the "richest" country in the world, as suggested by the PPP-adjusted per-capita income estimates?

My buddies back home are not able to save a lot, as everything is so expensive. It is hard to tell. There is a strong social safety net, however, it is unclear in what form that safety net will survive the coming demographic changes.

US$50 for a pizza & a beer

I was born in Ålesund. Great place if you can stand snow in early May!

The "Sukkertoppen" Mountain, possible named after Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, is an easy hike, and provides the same view of downtown Alesund as Cowen posted.

For food recommendations:
1. Buy some shrimps straight from the shrimp boats, eat like the locals, with a plain french bred (loff) open face sandwich, lots of butter, big pile of shrimp, mayo on top, squeezed lemon optional.
2. Eat smoked salmon the way of locals, cold smoked, on french bread, with scrambled eggs, butter not optional.
3. Dessert: Norwegian version of Tres Leches is called Bløtkake, some versions include Marzipan, highly recommended. A local specialty is named "svele", and is pancake like, raised by salts of natron, emitting ammonia instead of carbon dioxide like baking powder or soda.
4. Fleskepannekake, local savory pancake, includes bits of bacon.

If present, the shrimp boats would be at the inner harbor here:

Norwegians are world class in terms of consumption of Coffe, Cognac and Icecream on a per capita basis, and we're coming up on Khat consumption

We used to live a hop, skip, and a jump from an island packed with puffins. Or, strictly, a ten minute cycle ride and a bit of a splash. Stunningly attractive little fellows they are.

One may view puffins in Maine, if that's an interest. A southern colony was re-established on a island and can be seen on a cruise from Boothbay Harbor.

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream is always hard to come by, as far as I can tell. Or at least decent/good stuff is.
Amy's in Austin, TX
Dove pints.
Cold Stone sometimes at some stores.

Where to find dark chocolate Ice cream?

Dark chocolate Ice Cream is Tyler Straussian for finding non-Americanised stores :-)

I was there 3 years ago, awesome place, beautiful and full of "quietness"!!!

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